Former U.S. President Barack Obama delivered a commencement address for American graduates whose graduation festivities have been sidelined due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To honour the class of 2020, the LeBron James Family Foundation, the Entertainment Industry Foundation and XQ Institute have teamed up to produce Graduate Together 2020, intended to be “a virtual stand-in” for the commencement ceremonies that won’t be happening this year, with Obama delivering the commencement address.
Obama addressed the pandemic in his speech, and threw some serious shade at the Trump administration’s chaotic response to COVID-19, which has seen the U.S. death count climb to nearly 90,000 as of May 16.
“This pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing,” Obama told the graduates. “A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”
However, Obama told the graduates that their generation would persevere, and had the opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past. “If the world is going to get better,” he said, “it’s going to be up to you.”
LeBron James also offered some words of advice to the class of 2020. “Pursue every ambition, go as far as you possibly can dream, and be the first generation to embrace the new responsibility — a responsibility to rebuild your community,” he said. “Class of 2020, the world has changed. You will determine how we rebuild, and I ask that you make your community your priority. Congratulations, Class of 2020. I love all of you. And remember one thing: you’re all kings and queens.”
The special — which can was livestreamed — featured former U.S. President Barack Obama delivering a commencement address, along with appearances by LeBron James, former President Bill Clinton, the Jonas Brothers, Amy Schumer, Bad Bunny, Jason Alexander, H.E.R, Charli D’Amelio, Megan Rapinoe, Yara Shahidi, Lena Waithe, Pharrell Williams, Malala Yousafzai, Chika, YBN Cordae, Kane Brown, Lana Condor, David Dobrik, Dolan Twins, Karol G, Liza Koshy, Maren Morris, Olivia Wilde, Zendaya and National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson.
“We learned early on in our work with students and families in Akron that education is so much more than academics. It’s about a shared experience, a journey we’re all on together — students, parents, educators, community members, and everyone around them. With that not being possible right now, we’ve been working to find ways to help families get through this really difficult time,” James said in a statement. “These students have worked incredibly hard for this and there’s no way we can let that go unrecognized. While this won’t be the graduation experience they were supposed to get, we hope we can still give them something special because they deserve it.”